Good decorating is all about details, and I’m a believer that rooms created for the future should reflect the best of our past. Designs of today that incorporate classic elements from the past are almost always the most successful, in my view.
When I recently visited the offices of the fabric manufacturer Rubelli in Venice, Italy, I admired many of the newest patterns in the collection — damask cut velvets and prints — only to be often told that the designs were created from past documents.
Now, what, in design terms, are documents? They are fabric fragments from the past — sometimes dating from as long ago as ancient Egypt — that inspire today’s fabric designer and the decorators to create new patterns, often using fresh colors or a different scale and sometimes even eliminating portions of the original design. I often borrow from original documents when I am creating interiors.
When I’m in Venice, I can’t help but envision ideas for future projects. If I see an over-door pediment that I like or a detail on a building that calls my attention to its beauty, I always photograph the element, which may serve as inspiration when I create a carpet design, a light sconce or even a chandelier.
Details really do count when decorating — but what are these details? Among them might be the valance and drapery trimmings, the hardware on the entry door, the fringe around the seat of a club chair, even the lampshades that cover chandelier bulbs, which can be so glaring at times if left naked.
Details include the creative way in which pictures are framed or the way mirrors and artwork are hung on a wall. So many people forget to hang pictures at a height that is for enjoyable viewing. Many is the wall I have seen where one small picture hangs at a height far too high or far too low. And many is the sofa I have seen that is bare — not a throw pillow or a comfortable cashmere throw at hand.
And what about plants and flowers? I believe that a room looks unlived in when there’s not a bud or green leaves in view.
Dressing a bed
When thinking about details, take a look at your bed. Is it dressed with the right combination of coordinating pillowcases, pillow shams and duvet covers?
Oh, how I enjoy dressing a bed, just as some fashion designers, like Givenchy, enjoy dressing the female form.
To be a great decorator — and that means thrilling your clients by creating for them comfortable, attractive rooms — you must have patience, taking the time to select the best and most classic details of design that are on the market.
- Carleton Varney -
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